It’s easy! Do these 2 things to Reduce Waste

It’s easy! Do these 2 things to Reduce Waste

In being a parent, I know that it’s not always easy to know where to start making changes to reduce waste…

We as humans create a lot of unnecessary waste. Just to be clear, waste is anything that you throw away which ends up in the landfill. We accumulate waste at an enormous speed and our planet and wildlife just can’t keep up. Globally about 100,000 marine mammals like whales, dolphins, seals… die yearly due to plastic. According to Learner.org, The United States creates about 230 million tons of trash per year. Which is about 4.6 pounds per person per day. Yikes! Even recycling is not enough to reduce the mass amounts of waste we create. But hey, we can make a difference by paying attention to what we throw away and how we can reducing that waste that we create.

black and white image of a person throwing away a paper into the trash bin

So are we reducing waste by recycling?

Recycling glass, paper, and plastics are definitely a major part of processing waste. But in my opinion, it is not reducing waste. When we buy things that we do not need, especially single-use items like straws, cups, plastic bags, cutlery and so forth, it just ends up being thrown away. Recycling a portion of it just not enough! Recycling still uses a large number of resources like oil to get the material from our homes to the recycling station, machinery to process it,  people to sort it, boats to ship it to countries like China. Even countries that used to buy our recycling and repurpose them are now not. China used to buy 70% of the world’s plastic trash, about “7 million tons a year” but is no longer doing it. Therefore, our recycling ends up at the landfill!

Check out this 5 minute audio from NPR to learn more. In the end, it is still a good idea to Recycle but an even better idea is to (1) Not to Buy single-use plastic items and (2) Only Buy what you need! 

Shipping containers at a loading dock

So here we go. Tip # (1) Don’t buy single-use items 

There are some changes being made to reduce waste like, the use of single-use items like plastic bags (Single-Use Carryout Bag Ban (SB270)) foam containers, straws, and more. But the impacts is not efficient enough. So, let’s look at what we can do!

Coffee Cups and Plastic Water Cups

According to Recycling Advocates, it is estimated that 50 MILLION disposable coffee cups are used in the Metro area per year.  Which means that we are creating 3 MILLION pounds of solid waste and 6,000 metric tons of CO2. 

A latte in a paper cup at a coffee shop outside the window on a table. Reduce waste by bringing your own cup.
Bring a reusable cup

I know I enjoy a nice latte, when I am on the go, toting around 3 kids to their activities, so no judgment, I’m guilty too…. but let’s make a conscious decision to try to bring our own cups.

I personally like to use a stainless steel water bottle like this one. (click on the blue words). And for hot liquids, I like to use this natural bamboo tea tumbler. Sometimes, the cafe might even have glass cups that they wash so go ahead and use those if you are staying for a bit.

hand holding up a metal cup that says travel often
Bring your own cup and reduce waste of coffee cups

Plastic Straws

Do we really need one? Sometimes I guess! Like when you have a thick drink like a frappe? Or a smoothie. But instead of using one, try the old fashioned way and sip directly from the cup. Or you can bring your own eco-friendly straw. There are so many eco-friendly straw options from materials like metal, plant material like bamboo and glass. Click here and here to check out some reusable straw options.

Reusable Glass, Stainless Steel, and Bamboo Straws. From World Market.
I like the Bamboo Reusable Straws from World Market. They also have Glass and Metal ones

Plastic Trash Bags or going BagLess

So ‘What” and ‘How Much’ are we throwing away?

A pile of trash in a large waste bin, full to the brim and falling on the ground. Reduce waste by observing your habits.
Reduce waste by observing what you throw away

Some of us line our trash bins with plastic bags without even thinking about it. But as we have mentioned, plastic bags are single-use and are harmful to animals and ocean ecosystems. So let’s look at some eco-friendly options.

We can choose 100% recycled paper bags, waxed paper, compostable trash bags like these and or cloth bags that you can wash. 

OR my favorite option is to Go Bagless! This is how you do it.

Going Bagless

Look at your trash, sort it out between; ‘Wet’, ‘Dry’, and ‘Recyclable’ using 3 separate bins. You can get metal bins that are easy to clean like these for your Dry waste (recyclables and non-recyclables like some dental floss and packaging from bought goods). The good thing about the dry bins is that you def don’t need a bag to line it. And for Wet waste (likes food that you couldn’t dispose of in the sink drain like orange peels and bones from meat), you can try a compost bin. Then create your own compost pile in your yard or have your local waste company collect it with your other yard waste.

Two metal waste bins with lids in the corner of a room. Reduce waste by going bagless
Easy to clean waste bins

Why Should I do all this extra work?

So ideally, once you start noticing how much waste you produce, whether it is Wet, Dry, or Recyclable, then you will or can try to produce less of it. Therefore, more eco-friendly options could be chosen instead. Like when throwing away a plastic toothbrush, I am like, dang, I could have just used a bamboo one instead. So the next time that I am in the market for a toothbrush, I’ll be like, let’s get the eco-friendly one. Or shopping for produce that isn’t packaged in a plastic bag, but rather on the shelf unpackaged.

Bamboo Toothbrush can be used to reduce waste
Bamboo Toothbrush Option

A small tip to reduce waste!

If you did get an item packaged, you can try to repurpose it. Like the ones from the bag of chips you recently bought, or from mail packaging. Use it as a trash bag instead.

Colorful chips on a plate. With it bag next to it. Bag can be repurposed and used to reduce waste creation.
Repurpose already bought bags

Using plastic Cutlery

According to As You Sow, Plastic litter from take-out orders like cutlery often end up in the waterways and oceans, where they end up harming the marine life. 

Instead, grab a set of utensils from your kitchen and Voilah! I personally like to carry around chopsticks. They are simple and lightweight. 🙂 Or get a set of utensils made out of bamboo (like this one) or wood to take with you. There are so many options.

Wooden reusable utensils, fork, knife, and spoon, placed on a table. Reduce waste by bringing your own cutlery
Take me with you

Styrofoam To-Go Containers

Oh, the to-go box. It can come in handy for leftovers but do we really need one? According to the Green Dining Alliance, Styrofoam is a Hazardous substance, it leaches into our food and drinks, it’s toxic. It also depletes the ozone layer. Aaaand unfortunately, styrofoam is still being used to produce to-go containers. You can read more about it here

Instead of using a one-time use to-go container, try ordering just enough food so that you will finish it! You can also share a large plate of food with a friend. It will not only help your pocket but also help to not waste food. If you like leftovers, bring your own reusable metal food storage containers. Like this one. I like this tiffin container which I use as my kid’s lunch pale at school. It holds everything from soup, sandwiches, cheese, crackers, whateva your kids eat.

Tip #2 Only buy what you Truly need 

This is a tough one. In the U.S we are always being bombarded with ads, commercials, and even movies telling us to buy things. So sometimes its really hard to stop and think, “Do I really need this?” before impulsively buying something new. When the feeling comes to buy something new, stop and consider, is this a “Want” or a “Need?” If it can’t be decided, then take a day to think about it. If willing to go back to the store, then yes, you need it.

A monkey in the forest thinking with left hand on chin about our wants versus our needs.
Do I really need this?

Clothes

Reuse or repurposing clothes is a great way to reduce waste. According to the Sustainable Fashion Alliance, Apparel has a large carbon footprint which accounts for more emissions than international flights and maritime shipping combined. Check out this short video from NBC to learn more fashion fighting for climate change

Hand-me-downs, clothing swaps, second-hand stores, farmers’ markets, and yard sales are all great ways to reuse clothes and not buy new. You can also find gently used clothes from places like ThredUp, eBay, Amazon, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. I even once knew a Fashion Designer in San Francisco that would repurpose gently used clothing making it into a new look. So let’s get creative. 🙂

Different shades of clothes on wooden hangers meant to encourage you to reduce waste by not buying new clothes
Reuse and Repurpose Clothes

If you want to learn more about ‘Fast Fashion,’ check out; The Ugly Truth of Fast Fashion with Hasan Minhaj. Check it out here.

You can also read more about how to take action towards reducing waste by checking out Climate Action

So…Lets give it a go! Try to Reduce Waste by Not Buying New! 

Person holding out their hand in hopes to bring you along in the journey to reduce waste.
Let’s do it!

We are in this together and I am rooting for you! Feel free to send us a comment below, share your thoughts, and let us know what changes you are making to reduce waste?

Person writing on paper with a pen next to a lab top, writing down thoughts
Let us know your thoughts! Comment below on how you plan to reduce waste.

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Laura

Blogger & Parent of 3 wonderful kids (Preschooler, Toddler & Newborn :) We are inspired by travel, nature and creating joy in everyday life. Our family motto is to live by creating memories rather than owning things. My goal is to help Families find happiness in everyday life, build community, and to practice living life playfully.

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